Escapism

Have you ever fully felt present? Inarguably engulfed in the here and now? Void of any outside influence or worry? It’s what we all desperately search for, isn’t it? The peace, the stillness, the seemingly flat-line of life, where gargantuan levels of life exists.

I’ve escaped to the country for the weekend, which isn’t difficult to do when you live in Wales. A fourty-five minute drive out of the bustling Capital which is Cardiff has transported me inland, where I seem to be the only human who exists. A desire to escape my normality and the four walls of my city life flat has led me to a charming Air B&B on the cuff of Monmouthshire, where such is so peaceful that the dull hum of the fridge and the fizzing of the WiFi router is enough to distract you from the happenings which lie outside. My creative juices- as an overtly confident drama student would declare – have felt somewhat confined over the last couple of months. Not due to a lack of ideas or ambition, but of the ‘get up and go’ which entails distracting myself from the familiarities which lie in my flat long enough to put my phone – and social media – away and pick up my laptop to write and to edit and to exhert excitement into a piece of machinery of which I’ve sat in an office chair staring at for seven hours previously. I needed to detach work from my personal passion projects, and reconnect with the exuberance I’d left behind on the office desk. I needed to look up and look out of an unfamiliar window and inhale the essence which laid outside it. I needed to fling open the glass and breathe in the crisp air which lifted the fog that shrouded my brain. I needed to escape.

The brilliance of nature is widely scoffed at. An olde-worlde answer which doesn’t stack up with 21st Century problems. I’m guilty myself of ignoring it’s miracles, eyes glued firmly to the device which sits pride of place in my hands. But there is no better practice when mastering the art of being present and alive than sitting amongst the trees and the life which thrives amongst them. ‘She’s a treehugger!’ I hear you cry. Not quite yet, but there’s still time; As I relish in the beauty of the birds and the ahem- bees which dance on the opposite side of the pane of glass I can’t help but feel connected, feel inspired, feel creative again.

Through the looking glass. I spent most of my
Time at this window.

I closed my eyes and listened to the life unfolding around me. I’m failing to recall a time I noticed such a variety of bird songs flounceing through the air; The edgeless purring coming from the chicken pen was in stark contrast to the high-pitched call which echoed from the Red-Kite soaring above. I opened my eyes and everything seemed brighter. The leaves fell in a spiral, mincing off their branches to their final resting space. Apples lay at my feet, bruised by their hardship, damaged goods. A squirrel leapt across the grass with grace which could challenge a RAD trained ballerina. In the distance, pillows of clouds consumed the top of Sugar Loaf mountain, its peak name-sakingly peaking through the fog to expose it’s greatness to those quick enough to capture it. In hindsight, none of these things were extroadinarily obscure in themselves, but the anchoring of the present moment of which they provided was a step towards creating my own corner of extraordinary.

Connecting with yourself, with your aims, with your goals, is a necessary step in reminding ourselves why we’re here and what it is we want to do. It is so easy to get caught up in the mundaneness of life, the 8am alarm clocks and the 7pm microwave meals. Allowing yourself time to escape, gifting yourself those moments of stillness you will never get back is an act of kindness of which you will never regret. Whether you physically escape to a bolthole in the country like myself, or step outside and take in the greatness of your local park, next time don’t just watch the World go by, entangle yourself amongst it.

It’s cool to be kind.

It’s cool to be kind.

You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, or so we’re told, right? ‘They’re being mean because they like you’ is – quite honestly- a messed-up role we accept as a must-be fact when we’re infants; A bright-eyed and bushy haired four year old believing that the boy who pushed us over on the playground and scraped open our bruise-riddled knee cap was picking on us because he liked us. Some folk build their whole personalities around their brutal ‘honesty’ and the fact that they’re #real, claiming the title of the bitch of the group as if it were a Pride of Britain award. “I just say it how it is babe”. What you’re saying- babe – is that you’re a prick.

For far too long we’ve brushed off rudeness as a character trait, something to laugh along at although we wouldnt dare say it ourselves. Excusing the behaviour of that friend who’s slut shaming others from the pub corner because ‘that’s just what they’re like’. Or letting your elderly relative get away with calling the woman on the table next to you ‘a bit of a porker’ because ‘he’s from that generation’. But what if this ‘harmless’ fun in which you giggle at under closed doors amongst your tightly-woven friendship group is breeding something more harmful than a sour-mouthed loveable rogue? One who can’t be scoffed at and told to pipe down over a pint of Heineken and a packet of bacon fries, or sighed at that ‘Grandpa you can’t say that anymore!’ through muffled laughs of secret impress. What if these small spikes of validation are slowly encouraging the rise of thy once woeful friend or relative to tread into ever more dangerous territory; Territory where they cannot be monitored, recognised or identified, Where they can hide under a false persona and push young girls to attempt suicide through their smug opinions and ghastly off-the-cuff comments. What if you’re giving birth to an internet troll?

Sounds crazy, right? But they’re arising from somewhere, and at lightning speed. As someone who has unfortunately been on the receiving end of online trolling and name-calling, I can *categorically* state that these individuals aren’t overweight, sweaty men who wear off-white vests and hang out in their mums garages giving their wrists a good work out –not all of them anyway. These people are really, really….normal? Your mum’s friend Carol (it’s always Carol isn’t it?) who lives a few doors down might send round some of her left over apple pie on a foggy Thursday evening, but what you fail to see is that she’s also pressing send on a Facebook comment calling a twenty-something girl she doesn’t know a slag on a local newspaper’s page. Your loveable elderly Uncle? He’s sending unsolicited dick pics and graphic sexual comments about what he wants to ‘do’ to women fifty years his junior straight into their inbox. Your brother? He’s belittling women on Twitter and telling them to get a real job. And your sister? Well, she might be tagging her friend in an Instagram post as they laugh at the way a girls belly roll sits. These people drop their kids off alongside us at the school gates and they bust out a sweat on the bike next to us at a spin-class. They could be sitting alongside you in the office or at the table on Christmas Day. Intenet trolls don’t have three-feet tall purple hair and hide under a bridge ready to steal your pet goat as it trots by, Internet trolls walk amongst us and it’s highly likely they’re being spurred on by someone – or something- which has led them to genuinely believe that they must share their opinion that you have fat ankles and are boring AF before they combust into a cloud of frogs because they haven’t been #real in at least ten minutes.

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out – Jesy speaks candidly about her mental health struggles in the documentary (Photo: BBC)

Jesy Nelson’s gritty BBC Three Documentary ‘Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out‘ exposed the side of the internet we all try and dismiss, turning our heads to the outpour of hatred that spills out of the fingertips of thousands of individuals online. ‘Don’t Feed The Trolls’ we’re told. But when someone is attacking your character, manipulating your image, stealing your photo’s or lampooning the bits of your body you hate to see reflected back at you in the mirror, it’s difficult to shrug it off as just nothing; To not want to defend yourself, or not take their comment personally. If a kid called you a name in the school playground, you would’ve called them something back, or at the very least gone home and cried into your pillow about it afterwards. To suggest we can choose to totally ignore it is a difficult pill to swallow. In fact, it’s like trying to swallow a scotch egg whole. It’s just not going down. To see the affect these stranger’s comments have had on Jesy’s character was heart-shattering. A once confident and laughter-hungry young girl now riddled with insecurities she didn’t place on herself. We can say it time and time again- these trolls are sad, they’re bitter, they’re lonely. But how do we stop them? How do we re-train them, change their behaviour, convince them that they’re wrong? How can we stop these secret (and sometimes openly proud) hate-breathers in their tracks? They seem to have no shame, no empathy, no emotion. Somewhere along the way we’ve created a society where people feel completely comfortable being a knob. It’s really, really concerning.

It’s cool to be kind, it’s nice to be nice. But Mary Poppins isn’t real and life isn’t always as straight as a twelve-inch ruler (what did you think I was going to say?). We say mean things sometimes, we laugh at horrible things sometimes and we occasionally, un-intentionally encourage bad behaviour. We’re only human, after all. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more aware of eachother’s feelings? Even strangers and people behind Instagram posts and reality-tv shows have crappy days. When did we become so de-sensitised to that?

Let me serve you up some homework that will warm your cockles more than your Nan’s roast potatoes on a hungover Sunday. For seven days, comment something positive under someone’s Instagram/Facebook/Twitter picture. Seven People. Seven nice comments. Seven days. Trust me, it’ll leave you feeling a whole lot nicer and much more appreciated by the World than letting a Kardashian know what you really think of them under their most recent post will.

#777 Are you in?

It’s time to check in with your mindfulness.

It’s time to check in with your mindfulness.

I’m sat with an ahem, double gin and tonic on my one side, and ‘The Motivation Mainfesto’ by Brendan Burchard on my other. I’ve claimed my position on the balcony of a bar down Cardiff Bay with my visions of living the idyllic, ‘writer inspired by beautiful views’ high life, interrupted by a sea of Swansea accents which penetrate my eardrums as they toast the hot weather with pints of Welsh Cider, and the NSFW bedroom antics they got up to the previous night (honestly, nothing like a overhearing a conversation on grey hairy balls to inspire you to look within). An array of suspicious black curly hairs are entwined in the sticky alcohol infused table I call home for the next 80 minutes or so as I settle in for some much needed *me doing something I actually enjoy doing * time.

This blog has been a long while coming. Something I’ve pushed to the side whilst continuing to convince myself I have no time to write. No time amongst the endless scrolling. No time amongst the moaning. No time amongst the worrying. No time amongst the smiling, the laughing, the creating, the making. I try and practice my mindfulness as often as possible, but the last two months has seen me drift away into no-mans land on a leaking old kayak; Doing everything, but doing nothing. It’s about time I checked in with my mindfulness.

Mindfulness to some may seem like a load of codswallop. A land of airy-fairy; for hippies and yuppies and that weird group of kids at school who wore blankets as jackets and ties around their head. Although it’s admittedly questionable whether the cheap skunk they were smoking may have fogged up their adolescent minds, those hippie kids were sure onto something great. I’ve been practicing mindfulness for about five years now, since I discovered ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne. Some of you may have heard of it, some of you may have fallen in love with it, some of you may have turned your nose up at it. But one thing you can’t do is deny it; deny it’s basic message which is the Law Of Attraction- you attract what you think. Now hang in there, I’m not about to go all Uri Geller on you, I’m just highlighting something which has got me out of a few down-and-out places over the years. I have thought my way out of a mediocre reality and into a World of wonder and glee; a World full of experiences beyond my wildest dreams. And by ‘thought‘ I don’t mean I’ve sat in my room in my own self-pity whilst hoping the winds may change. But by continuing to envision a better life for myself; to hold on to the positives, the dreams, the unreachable, whilst working until 2.30am pulling pints in my local pub and living in parents spare room. And this was after I’d peaked at glamour modelling.

You’re going to have to get a full time job Jess” my Dad would tell me, as I prepared for another slog at the bar. I’d graduated University and had had to move back to Aberystwyth because I couldn’t afford to live in Cardiff now the safety blanket of my student loan had evaporated. The Ban The Lad Mag campaigns were in full swing and my modelling work had dried up, and when the work did come in, it was a six and a half hour Arriva trains (trust me, this matters!) train journey away in London. I had a degree in a topic I had no interest in pursuing, and years of experience in an industry which was disappearing. “Something’s going to happen” I’d tell my Dad, refusing to let go of the dream of a life outside of working in the one clothes shop in town. Days and weeks went by as I would shrug off my Dad’s validated worries with a spring in my step on my way to another 2am shift. I was adamant that there was more than this, and I refused to accept the reality which was point blank staring me in the face. Then I received a call from my friend of a last minute job that had come up, in none other than the Bahamas (I mean seriously, I’ll take that sign from above thank you). With a joint ‘fuck it‘ we both agreed to go together and that trip was the start of my “Something’s going to happen’“; The start of my new life. Fast forward three months from that trip and I had moved back to Cardiff into my own apartment, working in a job role I would never have thought up for myself, but which seemed as if it was made for me. Since then, I’ve held onto the practices of ‘The Secret’ as proof that miracles do really happen, but positivity isn’t an easy ride.

Three years on and I’ve rode the waves of a rough sea. With mind-blowing highs, comes mind-numbing lows. I’ve found happiness, then I’ve lost it, I’ve felt as if I had everything planned, and then I’ve never felt so unstable in my life. I’ve discovered yoga, I’ve collected crystals, I’ve meditated for hours, and I’ve thought it was a loads of bollocks. When things aren’t exactly going your way, it’s hard to wake up and smile and tell yourself everything is going to be alright. No one has a great day every day, not even the Dalai Lama. But having some positive thoughts to anchor yourself too in times of distress is a damn good place to start. The last few weeks I’ve lost sight of my mindfulness; I pushed it aside like a banana skin lobbed out the window, playing second best to a phone which refuses to leave the grasp of my hands. But in its absence, boy did I miss it.

Because what can’t be denied is the power of positive thoughts, happy minds and simple actions of love. It’s quite simply science (seriously, you can look it up).

If you think good things, you’ll feel good things. If you do good things, you’ll feel good things. If you say good things, you’ll feel good things. If you tell yourself everything is going to be okay, and you believe it, then everything is really going to be okay. Somehow (I haven’t quite figured that bit out yet).

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be downward dogs and breathing techniques, it can be sitting in silence whilst in the bath, or putting your phone down to talk to your friends. It can be looking up when you’re walking through nature, or smiling at the person cycling passed you (honestly, people always look so surprised when I do this!). It can be putting your favourite cheesy music on full blast when you wake up in the morning and dancing around your flat naked (just me? Okay). Check in with the things that make you feel good, that release that hit, that serotonin (The instant happy chemicals) or dopamine (the happy chemicals which come from anticipation), that feeling of “ah, that was nice”, and do them tenfold.

My personal biggest challenge at the moment is quietening my mind when it throws the big question of “How?” To the forefront of my brain with a mighty sling shot (I’m convinced this is how headaches occur). How am I going to achieve everything I want to achieve? How am I going to make my money to live a comfortable life? How am I going to settle down and start my own family? You can get so caught up in the How that you can miss it happening right in front of you. See the thing is, you’re not supposed to know how; the innocent and untraveled and inexperienced 22 year old me knew that. She didn’t worry about the how, she laughed in the face of the how, she just knew that it would. And that was enough to change the direction of my life. I think I’m ready to meet her again.

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

The cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show: Can we end poverty porn for good?

This week saw the daytime TV talk show ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’ cancelled permanently by ITV after a guest committed suicide just one week after being publicly humiliated over a lie detector test whilst filming the show. A father, grandfather and an individual suffering from mental health, Steven Dymond’s death has garnered the attention of MP’s, psychiatrists and experts who are all calling for urgent action to be taken by production companies to provide up-to-par aftercare for their guests, with Downing Street adding that the case was ‘deeply disturbing’.

And that it is, but what is perhaps more deeply disturbing is how it has taken fourteen years of degradation of their participants- many vulnerable individuals- across three thousand, three hundred and twenty episodes for the show to be cancelled. Or how 1.5 million people regularly tuned in to watch what a district judge once described as ‘human bear-baiting’ unfold on prime-time tv with their cup of tea and toast as part of their morning routine. Or perhaps how anyone expected nearly twenty-odd-thousand guests, most seeking help with sex, alcohol and drug related problems, to be provided with top-level aftercare by a production company profiting off their pain. And maybe the most deeply disturbing of them all, is the hypocrisy of the MP’s claiming a tv entertainment show, for right or wrong, need to take responsibility for the care of their vulnerable participants, whilst child poverty figures sit above 50% in some of the most deprived parts of Britain.

Reality-tv has provided a platform to spread hate and propaganda towards our societies poorest and defenseless. From shows like The Jeremy Kyle Show who entice guests in with the promise of first-class therapists, a posh hotel and a cigarette allowance before Kyle screams judgements at them in front of a baying audience, pointing our their dowdy appearance whilst they sit in the tracksuit they’ve been encouraged to wear. To documentaries’ such as ‘Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away!’ which follows enforcement officers as they repossess the homes of those too poor to pay their bills; and ‘Rich House, Poor House‘ which sees families from opposite ends of the financial and class spectrum swap houses and budgets for a week, providing a cruel insight into the lives of their rich counterparts who take pity upon their debts and less-than appealing lifestyles, some of whom take it upon themselves to be their knight in shining armour and buy the poor family a new carpet, before slipping quickly back into their comfortable life in their sought after postcode. And let’s not forget reality shows aimed at a younger audience such as Geordie Shore, who handpicked young adults from working-class backgrounds and struck them off the dole and into the limelight; ploughing them with free alcohol and a new found infamy in the World of television. All of these shows garner Nationwide attention and aim to highlight the worst qualities of the lower-classes in order to humiliate and ridicule for the gain and entertainment of others, all the while whilst pushing an ideal supported by decades of austerity that these individuals are a nuisance to our society. And we the public buy into it every single time.

Reflecting our ancestors medieval traditions, we throw insult and judgement’s at those airing their dirty laundry on our screens, one rotten tomato after another whilst cackling at the despair of others like the sadist’s we so desperately claim not to be; Unfortunately social media only acts as an enabler to these views. I recently watched an episode of Blind Date which portrayed a lady as being a little ungrateful at being picked and who giggled along with the crowd at the appearance of her date. Twitter lit up with negative comments about this woman’s looks, her attitude, how she ‘wasn’t a looker herself’. Tweet after tweet nitpicked away at this woman’s body image whilst she desperately tried to personally reply to all the criticism coming her way by sharing how nervous and awkward the heckling audience made her feel, and that she wasn’t used to being on television. I felt extremely uncomfortable watching all of this unfold, it was as if she had been thrown to the lions and was furiously trying to crawl away, with I imagine very little aftercare on how to deal with such a scrutiny from the Blind Date team. This raised the question Why we as a society use TV as our output in taking so much pleasure from another’s pain? Watching someone else’s misery is a leisurely activity for us, our Friday night wind-down. Our Saturday’s are spent finding their social channels to tell them how we feel about their performance. And as Sunday comes around, we prepare for our own battles we’ll face in the week ahead that are, thankfully, not played out in the public eye, whilst our ‘willing’ participants (a term many like to use to support this theatre of cruelty) deal with the aftermath of their lives changing forever. Chris Lyons, a previous guest on The Jeremy Kyle Show has claimed the show “Ruined my life. All of a sudden, I wasn’t Chris Lyons any more. I was just that guy off The Jeremy Kyle Show”.

No one can prepare you for the mass judgement of others, whether you’re semi-aware of the publicity the show brings i.e: being a contestant on Love Island, to filming a one-off tv appearance you thought would be ‘a bit of fun’. The cancelling of The Jeremy Kyle Show is a step in the right direction toward ending poverty porn and the glee in which others find in it, but whilst production companies have a duty of care to their participants, we have a responsibility as humans to be a little nicer to each other; And to recognise that we are contributing to a class-divide problem which stretches much wider than the channels encased in our small screens. Would Steve Dymond have felt the immense pressure and humiliation which led to him taking his own life from just Kyle’s comments alone? Maybe. But a heckling audience and the thought of the widespread embarrassment and judgement from failing a lie detector test in front of 1 million viewers to come might have just been his tip of the iceberg.


If you are struggling with your mental health and would like someone to talk to, please contact mind.org.uk or call 0300 123 3393.

The currency we place on our bodies: Mental Health Awareness Week.

The currency we place on our bodies: Mental Health Awareness Week.

This week marks the annual Mental Health Awareness Week, and this years theme is a topic which effects most of us, across all ages and gender- Body Image. Body image is the way we think and feel about our bodies.

Recent statistics show that 1 in 5 adults have felt shame over their bodies in the last year (MHF, 2019) and over a third have felt anxious or depressed because of concern over their body image (MHF, 2019)


Last week gifted us the hotly anticipated MET Gala, and after a Twitter Moments feature showed up on my feed of model and activist Emily Ratajowski’s appearance at the event, it also blesssed me with a Twitter exchange which got a few of us hot under the collar, for all the wrong reasons. Ending in damaging hashtags such as #aimfortheconcave in reference to Emily’s stomach being thrown around as a ‘joke’ and accusations that I was tweet shaming (is that a thing now? I’ll take it) it was clear to all that this women’s body got us all fired up. But I’m not here to psycho-analyse and breakdown each tweet- Lord knows I’m not perfect when it comes to my views and we’re all welcome to our own opinions and being able to share them online, I mean that’s the beauty of Social media, right? – but instead of hide this exchange under a bed of RuPaul’s Drag Race retweets, I wanted to sit in all it’s uncomfortableness and explore and explain why these words offended me, and Why, when it comes to validating- or criticising- women’s bodies, we shouldn’t all have to ‘ Calm down, sweetie‘.

The initial tweet was one of thousands, and I mean thousands, referencing Em Rata’s body at the Gala. Sure, she was wearing a stomach showing dress so I’m sure she was well aware of the attention it was going to garner. Tweet after tweet queried how hungry she must be, how she’s probably never ate, how is she human, how do her organs fit in her body. All remarks that aren’t that offensive, right? I mean, people are saying how skinny she looks! They want to know her secret! Who would get offended by that!? But slim-shaming, or perhaps even more damaging, slim-praising, is just as unhealthy to our society and to young, impressionable individuals as it’s treacherous cousins, fat-shaming and obesity worshipping. We wouldn’t dream of publicly tweeting about how someone’s organs must be bursting at the seams because of their large size- it certainly goes both ways. I understand the many of these tweets were meant with no malice and as throw-away comments, not to be broken down on little old me’s blog pages, but it’s not individual comments I want to concentrate on. With hundreds of women taking to social media to praise and fawn and critique and judge the body of a woman who spends a good proportion of her time championing the fact she is more than her body and image- I’m curious, What is it about the female body which leaves us obsessing over each other’s biological being?

There were men at that Gala. Many men. I did not see one tweet commenting on their bodies. I mean jeez, these guys turn up to the hottest fashion event of the year with the theme being none other than ‘CAMP’ in a black suit, and have fan girls Worldwide drooling over them. These women turn up in a gown they’ve spent months designing, going to fittings, HOURS in hair and make-up, and their bodies are immediately scrutinised under a microscope, from the way they’ve parted their hair to the colour of their toenails. It is rare that these men are subject to the vast amount of scrutiny, or validation, over their bodies as their female counterparts. The female anatomy has, for many years, been a pawn for society. Used as a weapon in this game that we call life to belittle, or give currency in the form of validation, to women who fell under it’s spell.

From a young age, I have been fully aware of the body I am in; How it looks, it’s flaws, it’s, it’s highs, it’s lows. I remember shaving my legs at around the age of ten and taking a chunk out of my ankle (who knew you’re not supposed to shave your ankles?). I remember lying to my teacher that I had my period so I wouldn’t have to take part in swimming lessons and have the boys in my class make comments about my growing breasts, at the age of eleven. I remember hating my chunky thighs and how they looked in my football shorts, at the age of twelve. I remember shaving half my eyebrows off too look like tadpoles at the age of thirteen, because I thought the ‘bushy’ bit was too bushy. My teenage years were tinged with a dark cloud that loomed over it, in a constant state of worry from my feet, to my earlobes, of the way my body looked. But perhaps most telling of my shift towards full awareness of my body and it’s acceptance within society- and why terms that are applauded on pro-anorexic sites like #concave trigger me- is that by age 17, I frequented these sites too.

What ironically started off as a sixth form project where I had to investigate a topic and write a diary following my journey and my findings (honestly, I’m dumb-founded how this was ever signed off by my teachers) turned into a regular habit of me browsing pro-ana sites and eventually engaging in content. Starting my interest in body image and Feminism young, I chose to explore the pressures on young women and whilst searching for individuals I could interview, I came across a forum which included teenage girls praising each other for not eating that day; posting pictures of them looking extremely skinny and other girls commenting underneath how jealous they were of their bones sticking out. Aha! I had my subjects. I browsed these forums regularly, chatted with girls on there, lifted exchanges and comments and embossed them into what was probably the hardest-hitting Welsh Baccalaureate essay the school has ever seen (probably?). But as I studied the behaviour on these sites I soon realised after a few months of anonymously engaging, I kind of…. wanted in? I posted a couple of pictures my friends had taken of me celebrating the end of my exams at the beach where my ribs sort of poked out, and waited for the replies. And they flowed in thick and fast. Girls fawned over my boney physique, sharing their jealousy and how they wish they looked like me. It was bizarre, and strange and a time in my life where I was very, very, unsure of who I was and what I was doing. I kind of tried not to eat much, but I wasn’t very good at it. Luckily, I was not a victim of an illness but just an impressionable teenage girl and once I had finished school for the Summer I was lucky enough to have my attention directed away from these sites and towards a boyfriend and my friends. And I’ve never visited them since.

I’m absolutely not taking anything away from those who suffer from the debilitating and evil illnesses such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or any other eating disorders, and I am no way in a position to begin to share what it must feel like to suffer from those diseases. But what I can and hope to do is highlight how impressionable we are from a young age, and throughout our life, and how the habits and opinions of others when it comes to body image and the way we look can invigorate, embody and overtake us for all the wrong reasons. How do we possibly begin to combat this epidemic of obsession over the way we look, that has been drilled into us by society from a young age? I don’t have the answer for that. But a good place to start would be to eliminate the currency in relation to our body image, the idea that the way our flesh and bones are formed make us any better or worse of a human. Any more or less worthy of love and respect. The admiration of others, the judgement of others. The shaming. The praising. The fact that a women’s stomach is Worldwide news.

Roughly ten years on and I still have a very up and down relationship with my body. I’ve worked in an industry which profits solely off of my body. I’ve profited off my body. This means I’ve had to pay very close attention to it’s weird and wonderful shapes, it’s reoccurring dimples and stretch marks. I’ve put on weight. I’ve lost it. I’ve had people comment I look too slim. I’ve had people comment I look too chubby. I’ve filled bits out (literally), and I’ve wanted to take parts away (also literally). Do I still look at my body in it’s undressed state every morning in the mirror and subconsciously evaluate it? Yes. Do I allow myself to be validated by my body anymore? I’m working on it.


For more information and statistics about mental health awareness week and this years theme click here .

If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this blog , you can contact BEAT, Beating eating disorders, for help and support here .

For mental health support and advice, contact MIND, at https://www.mind.org.uk 7

Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

Reality TV: Fame, Followers and Broken people.

I sat down for a meal Saturday night with my mum and my friend, right in the heart of a city that was alive with glee and celebration. People sang around us, laughter filled our table and drinks flowed at such a pace it was like water was turning to wine right in front of our eyes. In a brief lull waiting for our next tray of drinks to arrive we took advantage of the two minutes peace to catch up with the social media we had so happily neglected throughout the day. That’s when my friend saw the news. “Oh my God, Mike from Love Island has died”. The news hit like a ton of bricks as I tried to wrap my head around this information which was unfolding rapidly online. I actively refreshed my twitter feed hoping somewhere that it was some messed up rumour. My WhatsApp groups came alive with notifications of disbelief as the three of us sat there trying to process how, in a World where we were naively immersing ourselves in so much joy, an individual had been in so much pain. I didn’t know Mike Thalassitis. Neither did my friends. Or my mum. Or the countless people messaging on WhatsApp. But something about this abhorrent news hit us all hard, as if it could have happened to any one of us, our boyfriend, our friend, our brother, our son. See the thing with reality stars is that they are so good at being just that, real.

We build a relationship with these people daily for months on end. We engage with their friends via social media. We read about them every day in the news. We watch their families on morning TV. We see baby pictures of them printed in the news. We hear gossip about them trending on twitter. They are relatable in all their guts and glory; their insecurities and mishaps reassuring us that we are all human, whilst we can’t help but admire their undeniable beauty. They leave you feeling as if they really could be your best mate, but deep down you know you’ll never be cool enough to sit at their table. Like the popular kids at school, they’re attainable, they’re accessible, and you can’t help but want to know what Johnny got up to round the back of the school sheds, no matter how much you pretend you don’t care. The media and the public place them on a pedal stool for approximately 120 days of the year. 120 intense days where they are catapulted to a level of fame only a select few A-List, Media-trained celebrities have ever reached before. A level which no-one, no matter how many 20 minute psychological reviews they were given, could ever be fully prepared for.

The Reality TV World is a phenomenon which is still relatively new, and a World which production companies and contestants are actively trying to navigate. Whilst shows like Big Brother were huge in their day, the introduction of social media means that the 2 million people watching at home are not just judging you to their husband sitting next to them on the sofa, but can actively tell you how much of a twat they think you are direct, online, for millions more people to see, to like, to retweet and to join in with. If you’ve been on Twitter when Love Island has been airing you will know exactly what I mean. The entire trending topics are filled with Love Island hashtags; Hundreds-of-thousands of tweets sent out about a girl who until last week worked in a local shoe-shop and now has the entire World watch her chase after a man she met 24 hours ago to stay in a game show with the allure of finding your soul mate at the end of it. Srsly, just read that sentence again. The social media World is so fickle, you can go from hero-to-zero in one 60 minute episode as #Loyal Georgia was soon to find out. Personal Home-made sex video’s that before now had only ever been seen by the two of you engaging in the act have now gone viral for everyone and their nan to see. Ex-partner’s tweet their stories about you, Childhood friends sell their stories on you, feeding into this villain character which this edited entertainment show has created of you, all for their 15 seconds of fame online and to be a part of this insane feeding frenzy which we all buy into like crack addicts waiting for our next hit. I always joke to my friends that I could never go on Love Island because of the embarrassing catalogue of old modelling pictures of me that lie deep, deep down on the web, knowing that they’d be splashed online for millions of people to criticise and point out the exact things that I already hate about myself. I’ve actually been approached by the ITV2 casting team before, and whilst the allure of instant money making opportunities no doubt plants a seed in your mind, you can’t help but ignore the harsh reality that once you’re in a show as popular as Love Island, you become public property, opening yourself up to your entire life- before, during and after the show- being up for criticism and judgement. That’s not something that your average gym receptionist, hairdresser or even doctor can mentally cope with.

And then comes the months after the show ends. When the personal appearances dry up, when no one wants a picture with you anymore, when the free gifts stop coming, you’re yesterday’s news. You can’t go back to your normal job because everyone knows you as the one who had sex on the tele. Your co-workers think you think you’re better than them. Your boss can’t be bothered with the hassle of people taking pictures of you at work. You’re at a complete and utter crossroads. But the one absolutely manic fucking thing to deal with which is thrown in the mix here is that once you’ve stopped reaping the financial benefits from this and the work dries up, you still have your followers. Millions of followers on social media. A currency which is useless in paying your mortgage, but actively feeds your ego and pets your ever-growing insecurities. You’re a someone, but you’re no one. It means nothing, but it means everything. I have dealt with this on an extremely minor level considering what these reality contestants deal with, but the allure of having hundreds of thousands of followers and feeling pressure to live up to this fake life that comes with it, posting content to make your life look overly exciting whilst you’re desperately trying to figure out how you’re going to pay your bills next month. I’ve been out on my birthday in a nightclub when a guy approached me saying I “think you’re someone special because you have 90,000 followers on Instagram”, who proceeded to push me down some stairs and follow me crying out of the club as I begged him to leave me alone, an event which ended in a physical alteration, fake rumours being spread about me, facebook posts claiming I said things I didn’t, and me eventually having to threaten legal action if the slander continued. Being ‘Instagram famous’ is such a new concept, that no-one knows what the right thing to do is or how to cope, it can be a fucking lonely place.

Seeing the senseless loss of young lives is heartbreaking for us all. There has been calls for the production companies to do more in supporting those who come out of reality tv show’s and have their lives turned upside down, and whilst I absolutely believe that they need to do more in supporting and preparing them for what lies ahead, the reality is that they cannot check up on their contestants from one, two, three years ago regularly. However we, as the viewing public who make these individuals famous through engaging in conversations online, watching the show and buying their merch’ have a duty and responsibility as human beings to not say nasty shit to people online. This is something so simple that we could all do that would really change people’s lives. Life is already tough enough and we’re all dealing with our own issues in private, that one tweet could be the straw that breaks the camels back. I fear this won’t be the last time something as tragic as this happens as we continue to make ‘normal’ people famous. I can’t help but worry about how Influencers in years to come will cope when Instagram disappears, when followers lose their currency, when they have to go back to ‘regular’ jobs but no-one will hire them as the online foot-print they’ve left behind is being used against them years later. We need to realise that we are in an extremely rare and unique social experiment that we’ve never experienced before, meaning no-one has the right answers, me included. If we want to keep reaping the benefits of reality tv and social media, we need to take responsibility with how we engage with it and remember that behind the glamorous tv show which provides us with sixty-minutes of night-time entertainment, or glossy Instagram posts of filtered Individuals, there are real people, with real lives, and real problems to deal with.

If you are struggling with your mental health or just want someone to talk to call the Samaritans on their free, 24 hour contact line 116 123, or if writing it down is more your thing, send them an email to jo@samaritans.org You don’t have to be suicidal to contact them. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late.

My thoughts and respects go out to the families and friends of both Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon.